Installing Drywall in the Bathroom

To properly read this post, go mix yourself a cocktail and drink every time you read the word “screw.” Also you should probably smirk every time you read the word too, since, you know, we have the sense of humor of 12 year old boys over here. Got your drink handy? Okay, let’s get into this.

Once the insulation was in I started trying to find a good friend to help me install the drywall in the bathroom. I knew there was absolutely no way whatsoever I could do the full install alone.  Lucky me, eventually a friend casually mentioned he worked a summer installing drywall in college. Bingo! He had no idea what he’d just gotten into with that comment. I immediately started talking about my upcoming project and dropping hints. With the floors now covered in HardieBacker It was time to whip the walls in shape. I just had to wait for the plumbing inspection to finish so I could drain the drywall pan!

Land of Laurel | Taped Hardiebacker

Luckily, I soon passed inspection and after dropping too many hints, went ahead and asked my friend Janik to come help me drywall. Before that could happen I was faced with the dilemma of how to actually get the drywall… because 4’x8′ sheets weren’t going to fit into my VW Tiguan! As usual, I was discussed this issue with my neighbor Erik. And because he is an angel child, the man volunteered to meet me at Home Depot with his truck the next Saturday to buy drywall. He had to go anyways to pick up a few things. At this point we were each going to Home Depot 3-4 times per week and we were picking up things for each other on 1/4 of those visits. You guys, my inbox of electronic receipts from Home Depot is over 200 messages. In just over 1 year!

Anyways, I drove to Home Depot that Saturday and looked at drywall stuff. Erik met me there and convinced me to buy a bunch of drywalling stuff and then told me the drywall was cheaper at Lowe’s. We got into our respective vehicles and drove 10 minutes to Lowe’s. But when we were there, they only had normal 1/2″ mold resistant green drywall board. HomeDepot carried the ultra-light version of the same product. So back in our cars we went and back at Home Depot I purchased the sheets and tools which we then slid into the back of Erik’s truck. At my house, Erik helped unload the sheets of drywall into my kitchen storage room where I was staging everything for the bathroom remodel. I was glad we went back for the ultra-light drywall at that point considering how dang heavy the ultralight version was!

Janik was coming over the next weekend, so I was able to fully assess my supplies and read up on the tutorials on hanging and mudding drywall on younghouselove.com. I gathered everything I had purchased and double checked I had everything I needed a couple of times.

I started with the easiest piece of drywall on my own: the lower part of the exterior wall, just to see how quickly this could go. After I measured the wall a couple times, I scored the paper outside of the drywall with my boxcutter and snapped it neatly along that line. I cut a second piece to fit around the window frame and then shoved the whole thing against the wall and screwed in drywall screws every 16″ with my handy new impact driver.  The whole piece took 20 minutes tops, so I figured the whole room would go very quickly. Ha!

Berrybrier | Drywall First Piece

Now they make special drill bits for hanging drywall that prevent you from screwing through the paper and I eventually tried them, but I didn’t care for them as they prevented me from seeing and feeling the screw go in. It’s important to sink the screws just enough to recess their heads, but not enough to break through the paper. Here’s an example of a perfectly sunken screw.

Berrybrier | Drywall Proper Screw

Because the strength of drywall really comes from the paper, it’s super easy to cut (much easier than the hardiebacker!) and once the paper is cut the rest snaps very easily. This means screwing in the boards is a bit sensitive, since if you break through the paper, your screw is no longer holding on to anything at all. Here’s where my screw went in a little too far, you can see the rough edges. It’s a delicate balance of trying to get the screw to sink juuuust right. But once you get the hang of it, screwing into the drywall is pretty easy and if you mess up, you just sink another screw near the first. No big deal.

Berrybrier | Bad Screw

Later that week Janik arrived at my house ready to help hang the rest of the drywall. We got right to work templating the places to cut holes into the drywall sheets on the opposite side of the room. I took some primer that was nearby and dabbed it all over the edge of the sconce electrical box edge. Then we simply cut our sheet to the correct length and pressed it against the wall and electrical box. The primer left a nice circle on the sheet and I cut that out with a jagged edge drywall knife and gave the sheet a tight fit around the box.

Berrybrier | Templateing Holes

Piece after piece the walls came together and the bathroom became room-like again! It worked well to have two people on this job as one person could hold the sheets and the other person could screw. That sounds dirty, but you know what I mean! We made a good team since Janik is much more of a precision type person and I am a “well, it’s good enough” kinda person so the drywall job ended up right in the happy middle of those two as we worked efficiently around the room. I was particularly grateful for a second person when we started the ceiling since our arms were both screaming waiting for the other person to finish screwing in the sheets above our heads.

Berrybrier | Drywall Second Person

I had Janik wear an extra pair of crocs that were lying around Berrybrier since crocs are the shoe of choice for this renovation. I’m sure he appreciates this being memorialized on the internet.

The ceiling was absolutely the hardest part since this is an old house and nothing is perfectly square. Holding a sheet of drywall up above your head while another person tries to figure out what needs to be cut an an angle in order to make it all fit is exhausting and really a great arm work out. But I hate arm work outs, so I was all for cutting a bit deeper and mudding a bit more.

Berrybrier | Ceiling Mud

We diligently worked around the room and ceiling cutting out for the plumbing pipes and medicine cabinet with the same technique we’d perfected with the electrical box, though we some how messed up on at least one plumbing pipe hole and made an extra hole. Otherwise, we just cracked joke after joke about screws and time passed pretty quickly. All of a sudden it was 2am, 8 hours after we started and we finished screwing in the final piece of drywall in the ceiling and paused to get water in the kitchen. As soon as we stopped my body rebelled and I was ready to collapse with exhaustion. But the bathroom had walls again!!!

Berrybrier | Drywalled Bathroom

I took a few days to let my arms recover from the first real arm workout I’d done in 5 years. But there’s no real rest for the weary round here. It was time for some mudding, the hard and dirty part of drywalling. I was not looking forward to it. But I psyched myself up with chai lattes and the promise of actually being able to shower. That tends to work for me!

First I taped down rosin paper to protect the floors from stray drywall compound. Then, I started out by filling every single one of the ten billion screw holes with a bit of drywall compound, before moving on to the more challenging parts. I continued with the next baby step: the seams along the middle of the walls. I spread a thin layer of joint compound in the seam with my 6″ knifeand laid the paper tape on top, then gently pressed it into the seam with a tad bit more mud. I spread slightly more mud over the tape working with the 8″ knife. After this first coat those seams looked pretty rough, as expected.

Berrybrier | First Coat of Mud

I moved from there to the outside corners framing the shower surround. I cut the outside corner metal strips to length and screwed them into the drywall, working from the top down. You can get rounded corner or 90° angle metal strips, I chose the former since they were better suited for this style house.

Berrybrier | Outside Drywall Corners

Once it was screwed on, I globbed on a whole bunch of the drywall compound with my 6″ knife. It was a challenge to smooth the mud on one side of the tape without shoving the excess mud onto the other side of the corner. I did my best and moved on to the inside corner seams around the room, folding my paper tape into a 90″ angle and working it into the seam as I had on the flat seams.Berrybrier | Outside Corner Mud Coat 1

I used SO MUCH mud for the first coat. I worried I’d run out of my 4 gallon bucket of joint compound before finishing this small room. It was later November at this point and it was cold! I still had not turned on the heater in the house and was sleeping at my cousin Kristen’s after working on my house all evening, every evening. Because the house was so cold, the thick first layer of mud took several days to dry and cracked a bit in the inside corners. Since it was the first coat, it wasn’t a big deal that it had cracked, but I knew I needed to get that furnace tuned up and running asap!

I had the HVAC guys come out the day after Thanksgiving to fill up my tank with oil and give the 1920s furnace a good tune-up. Once that was cranking, the house stayed a tad bit warmer and the drywall compound dried a bit more quickly on the next coats.

I knocked off the higher bits and lines with a 6″ knife before starting the second coat of drywall mud and then used my corner, 8″, 10″ and 12″ knives to spread out the mud from the corners and seams as thin as I could. After that dried for a couple days I did my third coat, creating a heavy layer of mud, that was probably more than is recommended, but worked out just fine. Here’s that same outside corner by the shower surround after the second coat of mud. The last coat went on the smoothest and I thinned the mud slightly with some water in a second bucket to allow for a thinner coat.

Berrybrier | Outside Corner Mud Coat 3

Then it was time for sanding. SO MUCH SANDING. I sanded this room for weeks, ya’ll. I was sanding still in mid-December. Sanding and sanding and sanding. I used the sanding blocks and then borrowed a sanding screen from Erik which worked more quickly, but left more of a linear pattern than the sanding blocks. Drywall dust was in my pores and my skin was dry dry dry, but the room was looking more and more room-like and this corner was looking ready for primer.

Berrybrier | Sanded Outside Corner

The walls got really smooth and the edges of the outside corners felt really good too. The ceiling was much more difficult and I honestly, just decided after a couple hours of sanding, it was plenty good enough, because I wasn’t sanding above my head any longer. See comment above about my “eh, it’s good enough” attitude.

Berrybrier | Sanding Corners

Eventually, after I don’t even know how many hours of sanding, the bathroom was smooth as a baby’s bottom and ready for primer and paint! At last! My showerhead had been installed and as soon as the room was primed, I could shower again. Boy was I looking forward to living in my own house again. My 10:30pm 15minute sprints back to my cousin’s to shower and sleep were getting old quickly. I needed to be staying at Berrybrier full time to get through the push! But here we were with a bathroom with ACTUAL WALLS AGAIN!

Berrybrier | Sanded Bathroom Drywall Mud

Already this room was looking one million times better than where it had started and even with the drywall dust, I was happier to walk in here now than before! Now the room was taking shape and the new layout was feeling real for the first time. Boy did it look more comfortable than sneaking around the sink and gross tub to get to the toilet!

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Great progress had been made and I was so freaking excited for the next steps: paint and tile! Have you ever drywalled a space before? Was the ceiling the worst part for you too? Did you think you were going to be sanding forever? Would you ever do it again? Commiserate with me in the comments!

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Tiling Prep and Relocating a Heater Vent

Gotta keep chugging through this bathroom renovation to get to the pretty afters ya’ll! It’s a big change! But before I can show you that fun stuff, let’s go through the nitty gritty of the renovation. This is a real life blog. Let’s look at the ugly.

Before I could go much further in my bathroom, I needed to get a few things done. Post-insulation, my next step really should have been to drywall, but that was going to take more than just one set of hands, so I turned to the next item on my to-do list: prepping for tile! The original disgusting and uncleanable sheet vinyl floor was doing no one any favors. It wasn’t as bad as the kitchen (which was somehow disintegrating), but boy was it gross.

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Here’s a close up picture from demo so you can appreciate it EVEN MORE! IMG_0154

It was gross and it wasn’t staying. I had debated one hundred different mini-hex tile patterns before setting on a much more simple option from Home Depot. This shot of the overall bathroom palette really showcases the tile too. That high contrast has me all kinds of giddy!

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Before tile, comes prep though. It was time to conquer those vinyl floors! For that I headed out for more supplies. I picked up the following at Home Depot one evening.

First I cleaned out the bathroom of tools and random junk and swept the entire space to start with a clean slate! I measured my concrete board and cut of the excess length using a box knife again. If I could go back I would have used a circular saw and speeded things up, but at the time I didn’t own one. By going over the cut a few times with a box knife I was able to create a weak point which allowed me to then snap that section off.

Land of Laurel | Cutting HardieBacker

Then I had to cut a hole for the toilet. First I measured where that lined up on my sheet of concrete board and drew an outline. I took out my drill and drilled some holes in each of the corners.

Land of Laurel | Drilling Hardiebacker

Then I took out the box knife again to cut the rest of the hole out. Spoiler alert: I still snapped the HardieBacker in an unfortunate place that wasn’t my intention . Oh well! Just another seam to cover! That first piece was fairly easy to lay down in place though, but before I could move on to the second piece, I had some other work to do!

I originally planned to place a pedestal sink in this room and that sink was going to go right where the oddly almost square heater vent was. Well that wasn’t going to work! When I filed my mechanical permit for my new bathroom vent fan, I added on two quick HVAC ducting tweaks to the permit. This was one of them! I picked up more supplies from Home Depot (I was averaging 2-5 Home Depot visits per week for all of November and December!): a 90° angle turn register box, a couple of flexible angle pieces, and some foil duct tape (actual duct tape!). I used a small battery powered circular saw (borrowed from my neighbor Erik of course!) to cut a new hole the size of the register box in the floor and through the subfloor. Because there is a crawl space beneath the bathroom, I was able to climb around in there and use the new ducting pieces to extend the existing ducting about 1 foot so a new normal sized duct register would be closer to the bathroom entry wall and parallel to that wall.  I secured it all together with the foil ducting tape (NOT regular duct tape!) but waited to attach the register box until the HardieBacker was done.

I was exceedingly proud of myself for extending the ducting too! But then came the hole patching part of this job. I was trying to avoid going back into the basement crawlspace, because it’s gross down there and I hate it, so I was determined to patch the floor from above. I used some clamps I already owned to secure a couple of scrap wood boards in place and aligned with the level of subfloor. Then I just used my drill to tighten some screws through the floor and into those boards.

Land of Laurel | Patching Hole in Floor

I cut a piece of plywood to the dimensions of the missing floor and then screwed that into the new supports as well as an exposed floor joist. An easy floor patch! It seems crazy to put in this effort to move the vent 3″ over, but by turning the vent 90″ and using a modern size I was able to save a lot of floor space. This would have allowed me to have a pedestal sink too, but I later switched to a wall mounted sink and in this spot now lives a big basket of toilet paper.

Land of Laurel | Patched Hole in Floor

Once the floor was patched and the new register vent in (combined a two hour project), I was able to finish laying the HardieBacker! I cut the board to size and noted where the new vent location was. I made sure to dryfit the board before I grabbed the thinset again. I used the flat side of the float to glob a bunch of thinset onto the floor and then smeared it all around.

Land of Laurel | Spreading Mortar

It covered the floor patch job pretty easily and helped mitigate any change in height between my patch job and the existing floor. I then spread the thinset all over a 2 foot deep section of the floor until it was about 1/8th inch thick.

Land of Laurel | Thin Coat of Mortar

A quick switch to the square grooved side of the float allowed me to then make some nice lines in the mortar. This helps to establish some suction once the HardieBacker is laid on top. My grooves didn’t have to be perfect or straight, they just had to be there! See how you can no longer tell where my floor was patched? That’s the end goal! I had laid the piece by the toilet the night before and then returned then next day to do the remaining section. You can see above where I accidentally broke the backerboard trying to cut the toilet hole! Whoops…

Land of Laurel | Making Grooves in Mortar

Once the floor was covered with thinset grooves I was able to take my sheet of backerboard and lay it on top pretty easily. I left the boards in place and allowed the mortar to dry overnight, before returning the following evening to finish up. I took more mortar and smooshed it into the gap between the sheets of HardieBacker, wiping away any excess. Then I cut strips of the mesh tape to length and gently smoothed it over the mortared seam with my hand. The goal is to close the gap and then smooth the thinest layer of mortar over the tape. You can see below too that all this went down before the plumbing inspection was finalized so my new shower pan was full of gross water!

Land of Laurel | Taped Hardiebacker

At this time I also took out my drill and screwed the special HardieBacker screws into the floor. The screws kindly came with a special drill bit so I didn’t even have to worry about that. The HardieBacker needs to be screwed in every foot so further strengthen it’s connection to the subfloor. You can see how many screws that adds up to quickly! Unfortunately, I have the arm strength of a 2 day old newborn child and I couldn’t get any of the screws to recess into the HardieBacker! It was so frustrating, because this is essential to having a nice flat tile floor! I went over to my neighbor Erik’s house where he was working on his kitchen and borrowed his impact driver for an hour. With that, I was able to get all my screws in place with minimal effort. Seriously, ladies and gents, go buy an impact driver. If you ever need to screw anything in, a drill is just not up to the task! It’s better for making holes not filling them. The impact driver prevents me from stripping all my screws and makes screwing things in much easier. After seeing the difference between using my drill and Erik’s impact driver, you can bet your bottom dollar I bought myself an impact driver the next day. Shout out to Jeff Senn at Home Depot who spent a good hour with me debating the best model and brand of impact drivers. I landed on this Milwaukee combo kit which threw in a hammer drill and had some extra oomph to make up for my baby arm muscles. I’ve yet to use that hammer drill though, so perhaps I should have gone with a single tool…

I wasn’t done with the floor underlayment after I got all those screws drilled in though. I had measured during my dry fit of the second board where the new vent location was, but waited to cut it out a until after the HardieBacker was installed. Now it was time to knock this off the to-do list as well! I clued in this time and used a larger 1″ drill bit to make bigger holes in the corner of the vent this time and then cut from those. Then I cut it off from there with a circular saw borrowed from my contractor neighbor Erik.

Land of Laurel | Drilled HardieBacker

It came out much more quickly than using a box knife, I’ll tell ya that! then I got out a good ole hammer and some baby brad nails and drove them through the register box into the wood subfloor, securing it all together.

Land of Laurel | New Floor Register

Luckily it all worked out and then new matte black vent cover I picked up from Home Depot fit perfectly! I was more proud of this duct work than any other work in the bathroom thus far. It felt so very adult to do this quick switch! Woot woot! This room was coming together now!

Land of Laurel | New Vent Opening

And just like that, I felt I could walk barefoot in one more room at Berrybrier! Not needing shoes to protect your feet from gross bathroom floors is pretty amazing, let me tell you! Now this room was ready for tile and drywall and all the other bathroom renovation steps. It felt so good!

Have you ever prepped for tile? Thinking about getting started? You can totally do this. It’s EASY! I was shocked by how easy it was!

Adding Insulation to the Bathroom

Now that you’ve seen the big transformation of the exterior of the house, let’s get back to the ugly, shall we? The bathroom was chugging along here at Berrybrier, slowly but surely. My progress was actually pretty good considering I ran home from work every day, stopped eating dinner for November and December, and got straight to work from 5pm to 9:30-10pm during the week and pretty much all day on every weekend. It was a backbreaking schedule I wouldn’t recommend! But, I desperately needed a working bathroom so I could, you know, live in my house!

So after the electricians finished their work and the plumber did his rough in, I insulated the bathroom straight away! Insulation cost about $50 bucks at Home Depot, but I ended up with WAY more than I needed. There are other projects around I can use it for (the dormer, the small powder bathroom off my bedroom, etc), so I don’t mind the excess. I’m tempted to hire someone to blow in insulation in the exterior walls down the line, but it’s not in the budget right now. I’m up for trying to make this house as warm as possible, one room at a time! Alas! What do those of you with old uninsulated houses do? How do you keep warm? I didn’t turn on my ancient heater until late November 2017, when I got really desperate and until then it was so COLD in here!!

Back to the insulation though: this is easy. Like, the easiest. You can do this if you have one hand free. Insulation is designed to be the standard width of the distance between studs (which are set at 16″ on center) and stays in place with friction. It really takes no time at all to whip out a wall, especially if it’s a full height wall without obstacles. The steps are über simple!

  1. Wear long sleeves, pants, gloves, and a respirator mask.
  2. Measure height of space needing insulation.
  3. Cut insulation
  4. Stick insulation in between studs.
  5. The end! You’re done! You just insulated something!

It was super quick to knock out the exterior wall of the bathroom. I used a utility knife to cut the insulation shorter around the window. I’ve since learned that this cheap tool makes cutting insulation EVEN EASIER, so if you pick it up at Home Depot, it’s well worth the $10 bucks. The insulation knife cuts all the way through the insulation at one time while the basic box cutter take a few slices on the same line to cut through the paper and the backing. The pictures I have of the space aren’t great. They were mostly taken at night with my work light illuminating the space since the electrical wasn’t done!

Berrybrier | Insulation.jpg

The ceiling takes a little more work and requires at least two hands because you have to hold the insulation up and secure it. I used my staple gun to shoot staples into the ceiling joists securing the insulation. I also left some extra room for the electrical for my future can light. I erred on leaving more room around the electrical than I should have. The new electrical is fine to have butted against the insulation, but I gave the old electrical a wide berth. I do not want any house fires! I did use extra smaller pieces of insulation to fill in all the spaces around the walls of the bathroom, hoping that added insulation would help keep this space warmer!

Berrybrier | Can Light Location

Overall insulating the bathroom took one evening to complete! A short project with obvious progress is always pretty great. You can see above that my door way does not have the proper 4×12 header it would get these days. It’s an old house and this wall is not structural, so I left it this way. Plus I had bigger things to conquer, like drywall! And tiling! And cleaning up the disaster that was my kitchen…

Berrybrier | Kitchen Mess

Yeah the kitchen became the tool library / trash room / storage room and it was absolutely insane looking. For months. This room looked horrific from September 2016 to March 2017. Next time someone yells at you for leaving a dirty shirt on the floor, point them to this blog. They haven’t met crazy messy yet!

Have you insulated a room before? Worked on a bathroom reno in house you were living in? How did you survive?! My neighbors did their only full bathroom recently and they told me they’d been showering at the gym for 4 months!